I need to be back in the White House.
President Calhoun folded his arms across his chest and glared at the monitors on the wall of the conference room. He shouldn't be leading his country in a time of war from inside a hollowed out mountain. He needed to lead from the White House.
Unfortunately, US ground forces had still not cleared Washington of Iranian holdouts. The Secret Service and Joint Chiefs were adamant that they did not want Calhoun within a hundred miles of the capital until the Armed Forces secured it. That meant he was stuck at NORAD Headquarters in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.
His eyes swept over the monitors. Some of the feeds showed battles taking place in DC, Delaware and around Kennedy Airport in New York. Calhoun couldn't help but shake his head. The Iranians had no air, naval or Mechakong support. They had no hope of resupply. Couldn't they see this was a lost cause?
Maybe they do and just don't care.
He eyed another set of monitors. They displayed feeds from Iran. Dozens of columns of smoke stretched across the landscape. US bombers, backed by planes and ships from the Lincoln carrier battle group, had struck Pasdaran bases, along with the headquarters for the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Intelligence and National Security.
No bombs had fallen on Iran in the last two hours. Calhoun had ordered a halt to the attacks, and issued his terms to the bastards in Tehran. The immediate surrender of all Iranian forces in the US, the dissolution of the Pasdaran, the end to all projects involving Mechakongs or nuclear weapons, and 100 billion dollars in war reparations, including all the profits from the Pasdaran's business ventures.
Calhoun felt that was more than generous. A majority of the American people wanted him to nuke Tehran.
He checked the digital clock above the monitors. Iran's leaders had less than an hour to respond to his surrender terms. If they didn't, the bombs would start falling again.
An Air Force captain entered the conference room, holding a piece of paper. "Mister President, we've received this communiqué from the Iranian President, via Iran's UN delegation."
Calhoun nodded and took the communiqué.
In response to your terms, we are prepared to order our forces in the United States to surrender, provided they are guaranteed safe passage back to the Iran.
The Pasdaran is necessary for the security of Iran. We cannot dissolve it, but we agree to reduce their numbers.
The Government of Iran will cease all production of the Mechakongs. Our nuclear program is for energy purposes only. Since we are not developing nuclear weapons, we will thus continue with that program.
Your demand of 100 billion dollars in reparations is much too high. It will leave the Republic will little money to help the poor in our society. We are willing to offer your country a sum of 50 million dollars.
Calhoun's head trembled in rage. Those sons-of-bitches had destroyed nearly a dozen American cities, killed hundreds of thousands, displaced millions, and caused untold billions in damage.
And now they wanted to dictate the terms of surrender?
"Do they think I'm kidding?" Calhoun crumpled up the communiqué and threw it on the floor. He snatched a nearby phone and dialed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"General Laskey," he spoke deliberately, trying to hold back his fury. "The Iranians have refused to accept our terms for surrender. Resume bombing operations against Iran, and don't stop until those SOBs say uncle."
I'm almost home, Sergeant Dwayne Betts mused as he and several soldiers from his platoon knelt behind a house. He peered around the corner and saw clumps of trees two blocks away. Kosciuszko Park. His old apartment had been right across the street from it. Growing up, he couldn't count the number of times he heard gunfire coming from the park.
But the pistols the gangbangers had fired there wouldn't compare to what was coming.
Two stubby FV101 Scorpion armored recon vehicles sat at the entrance to the park. So did a jeep with an MGD heavy machine gun. Beyond them lay the HQ for the remaining Iranian forces in Dover.
Distant gunfire and explosions sounded from every corner of the city. The survivors of the Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune attacks, joined by several National Guard units, had been slugging it out with the Iranians for two days. Betts wondered how much ammunition the enemy could have left. They sure as hell hadn't been getting resupplied. They had to be running low.
But they didn't appear ready to give up any time soon.
A thumping noise came from the sky. Betts and the others looked up.
A pair of Apache helicopters dove toward the park. Tracers slashed through the air. The Apaches avoided them. Hellfire missiles flew off their wing stubs. Geysers of flame consumed the Scorpions and the jeep. The choppers let loose with their 30mm chain guns and unguided rockets. More explosions rose from the park.
A minute later, the Apaches wheeled around.
"Forward!" shouted the platoon sergeant. "Everyone forward!"
Tensing, Betts rushed around the corner and down the residential street. The other members of his platoon jogged around him, weapons up. They ducked behind cars, trees and anything else they could use for cover, waited a few seconds, advanced, and repeated the process.
Twenty-five yards from the burning vehicles, Betts checked over the hood of a car, waiting for the Iranians to open fire.
The platoon hurried toward the park. Intense heat from the flaming wrecks enveloped Betts. Sweat coated his face.
They entered the park. Several dozen Iranians stood by a clump of trees near the tennis court. Every one of them had their arms raised.
Are you kidding me?
"Don't move!" shouted the platoon sergeant. "Move and your dead!"
Betts and the others approached the Iranians, their aim not wavering. He came upon a short, solidly built man with a thick mustache and intense eyes. His look and body language screamed, "Officer."
"You in charge here?" asked Betts.
"I am Major Parviz Zarincheh, commander of the Pasdaran forces in this city," he replied in rather good English.
Betts stared at the man in contemplative silence. The Iranian officer corps in Dover must have been hit hard if a major was running the whole show.
"By order of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Zarincheh continued, "All our forces in the United States have been ordered to surrender."
Betts nodded. "Smart move."
Zarincheh's eyes narrowed. "Were it up to me, my men and I would keep fighting until every last one of us was dead."
"Well, it ain't up to you. And now, you can do me a favor."
The Iranian major sneered. "What favor?"
Betts looked through the trees, catching sight of the apartment he'd grown up in. He looked back at Zarincheh. "Get the hell out of my town."
The trip was long and wrought with delays. First Rieger, Hiroko, Martinez, Heath, Earth's Cosmos, Hopkins, Leary and two Security Forces men took a C-17 from Area 51 to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Twelve hours later they flew across the Pacific to Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. There they waited two days before the USS Nimitz came within range to launch a C-2 Greyhound. The twin turboprop COD – Carrier Onboard Delivery – plane flew them to the carrier, where they boarded an SH-60 Seahawk helicopter. A forty-minute flight brought them to a small, tropical island covered with lush vegetation. The pilot landed on the beach, kicking up a huge cloud of sand. The rotors slowed, then finally stopped. As Rieger and the others stepped out of the Seahawk, dozens of bronze-skinned men and women in colorful cloth shorts and skirts emerged from the vegetation.
"Welcoming committee's here," Rieger said to Earth's Cosmos. He held their basket while Hopkins and his SF men carried the bodybag containing the Delivery Man.
A slender man with wrinkled skin and a bushy gray beard approached. Gotta be the chief, Rieger thought. He held out the basket and bowed slightly. The chief smiled and took it, then said something Rieger couldn't understand.
"Our Chief wishes to thank you for our safe return," Earth's Cosmos translated, "and welcomes you to Infant Island."
Rieger smiled and nodded. "Tell him on behalf of the people of the United States, and the rest of the world, I thank him and his people for their help in defeating the darkness that threatened us."
After Earth's Cosmos repeated the statement in their language, Hopkins and the SF men came forward carrying the bodybag. A mournful look fell over the Chief's face. He said something.
"Our Chief asks if that is the body of Daluvou," said Earth's Cosmos.
So that was his name. Rieger felt a flicker of guilt at never finding out the Delivery Man's real name.
"Yes, it's him," Hopkins answered. "He died protecting Earth's Cosmos. He was a good man, brave man, and it was an honor to fight alongside him."
Leary and the other two SF men nodded.
The Chief thanked him for returning Daluvou's body, then summoned four natives to carry away the bodybag. He said something, which Earth's Cosmos translated.
"Our Chief wishes for you to join us for supper as our honored guests."
Rieger looked at the others. "Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I've never been one to turn down a free meal."
Everyone responded with nods and smiles.
The pilot radioed the Nimitz about the natives' invitation. The captain gave his approval, not wanting to risk offending the natives of Infant Island after they had sent Mothra to help the US defeat the Mechakongs.
Dinner was unlike anything Rieger had ever experienced. They sat Indian-style at long tables carved out of tree trunks and enjoyed a variety of fish, fruits and an interesting dessert called Poe, a sweet pudding made of taro root mixed with papaya and coconut.
After dinner, native dancers entertained them, then invited Rieger and the others to join them. Again not wanting to offend their customs, they got up and danced.
Rieger felt he held his own well enough. Heath looked stiff and unsure. Hopkins broke out moves better suited for a 1970s-era disco. Leary looked like he was having a seizure.
Then there was Hiroko. Rieger felt a hitch in his breath as he watched her laughing and twirling, her long black hair whipping around. My God, she was so beautiful.
After the dancing, the Chief gave a speech, thanking Rieger and the others for their efforts in defeating the darkness, adding they would always be welcome here on Infant Island. He also offered a prayer for all those who perished in the US/Iran War.
The ceremonies over, the Chief invited them to stay the night. One of the native women directed Rieger and Hiroko to their hut. They walked over to it, holding hands.
"I would not mind staying here for a while," Hiroko said. "It is so peaceful. A nice place to rest."
"I think we can do with a little rest after everything we've been through." Rieger gave Hiroko's hand a gentle squeeze. "I need to thank you again."
"What do you mean, 'for what'? For the way you got Danguard Ace patched up, for giving us that one shot with the maser. Who knows how things would have turned out if you didn't go above and beyond the call of duty."
Hiroko smiled. "Thank you." She suddenly whirled in front of him, forcing him to stop. "And after all that time and effort I spent repairing Danguard Ace, you brought my robot back in even worse shape than before."
"Well send the bill to the Iranians. They're the ones responsible for it."
"You could have done a better job dodging punches and missiles and lightning discharges. It will take weeks, perhaps months, to repair all of the damage. We can forget about that 'little rest' you spoke of."
"I'm sorry." Rieger frowned. "I'll make it up to you."
"How about we go down to the beach, walk along the surf, then find a spot under a palm tree for a night of red hot passion?"
Hiroko stared at him in silence for several seconds. She then put her arms around his shoulders and grinned.
"It's a start."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading. If you liked this story, you'll enjoy my new original sci-fi invasion novel "Dark Wings" (by John J. Rust), available from Amazon and as an ebook at smashwords-dot-com. Also, if any artists out there feel inspired to do a cover for "Rise of the Mechakongs" for the image manager, PM me about it.